(09.) OCKLAWAHA - Striped Bass of the Ocklawaha River FL

Striped Bass of the Ocklawaha River, Florida


An Information, Opinion, Photos, & Sources Report

Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca

With the assistance of Captain Erika Ritter, Roy R. Robin Lewis III, & K. Alwine

Photos by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca & Captain Erika Ritter

Article Originally Posted to Internet:  01 September 2011

Webpage Created:  21 November 2011

Last Revised:  17 December 2015


"Striped Bass of the Ocklawaha River, Florida"




NOTE: Some of the credible written works by others (i.e., magazine/newspaper articles, web pages, etc.)

 that are referenced in this report would not be considered peer-reviewed scientific documentation.


Click-on individual photos to enlarge them!

 Striped bass seeking the thermal refuge of Silver Glen Springs (flows into Lake George/St. Johns River) during the hot Florida summer.



Some of my fellow river bass anglers have experienced this type of adrenalin stimulus at least once in their lives & haven’t forgotten it yet. You are float-fishing a flowing river for your favorite black bass species from your canoe or kayak when all of a sudden your spinner-bait has been intercepted by a submerged F-4 Phantom jet -- which is now attempting to drag you & your vessel into the depths by your own 15-pound monofilament line. Now, if this flowing river that you are fishing just happens to be no further south than northern Florida & is connected to a much larger river, big lake, or tidewater; then maybe you start thinking -- WOW, IT MIGHT BE A STRIPER!
Ocklawahaman has caught striped bass from Florida's Apalachicola, Ochlockonee, & St. Johns river basins -- but NEVER from the Ocklawaha basin upstream of Rodman Dam or Buckman Lock. In fact, I have not been able to verify any recent existence of striped bass in the flowing middle Ocklawaha River -- which flows swiftly at a striper-friendly usual water temperature of between 60 & 80 degrees F all-year -- above Rodman Reservoir (a.k.a. Rodman Pool or Lake Ocklawaha).
A 15-lb striped bass from the Ochlockonee River basin.
Largemouth bass exist and naturally reproduce in all of Florida's 67 counties. In almost all of this state (except where maybe it is too salty) you can dig a pond on your own property (if permitted and of suitable depth/size) that stocked largemouth bass will probably be able to successfully spawn & survive in. There is nothing unique about finding native, naturally reproducing largemouth bass in Florida. Trophy largemouth bass (weighing 10 lbs & over) are caught from time to time statewide. Florida's striped bass, however, have a completely different life history.
The St. Johns River basin historically supported the most southern native & naturally reproducing population of striped bass in the United States. Striped bass, Morone saxatilis (formerly a.k.a. Roccus saxatilis), is also commonly known as striper. Striped bass in more northern states with summertime cool coastal saltwater are classed as anadromous marine fish, living much of the time in tidewater but spawning far upstream in freshwater rivers. Stripers in Florida, however, are classed as riverine freshwater fish. Adult striped bass are also cool-water fish needing 70 to 80 degree F thermal refuges such as artesian springs & canopied streams for survival during hot weather. The spring-fed & originally mostly forest-lined Ocklawaha River is the largest stream-flow tributary of the St. Johns River.
 Captain Erika Ritter with a St. Johns River basin striper.
Langworthy (1955) report that appeared in the Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal newspaper (28 August 1955, page 14):
"Sudden appearance of Northern striped bass, known along the New England sea coast and southward as 'stripers', over near Silver Springs during the past week has sent scores of fishermen speeding to that area with heavy tackle and anticipation agog.
"The 'stripers' have been located at the junction of the Silver River where it enters the Oklawaha River, and were first noticed by a fishing party that went out from Ed’s Boat Basin, operated by Ed Mason on Road 40 at the Oklawaha.
"Reports received here say that the party, fishing for black bass, hit into rather hefty strikes that tore up tackle. Later, and with heavier gear, they returned to the river and boated some of the fish, finding that they were real northern striped bass, a salt water fish. From then on anglers from all around hurried to the river, and at last report were hauling in scores of them weighing from 14 to 30 pounds.
"Striped bass are well known along the northeast Atlantic Coast, especially along the New England section where each year a big ‘striper tournament’ is conducted. They are caught in the ocean surf up that way and provide excellent sport for anglers. How they happen to have drifted this far south and so far up in Florida’s fresh water streams is anybody’s guess. Maybe the recent hurricanes had something to do with it.
"I checked with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Friday night regarding the appearance of stripers this far off their customary beat. The Commission said that striped bass often travel long distances up rivers and there is nothing unusual about finding them in fresh water.
"Dave Swindell, regional manager of the Commission with office at Williston, Fla., also said that he had heard nothing of large schools of stripers in the Oklawaha, but that some had been caught during the past several months at the county boat basin and landing near the junction of the Oklawaha and Silver Rivers–which is where these big catches have been made during the past few days.
"Several weeks ago an 18 pounder was caught with shrimp in the vicinity of Eureka, about 20 miles downstream from the junction of the two rivers.
"Several years ago a few stripers were seen and caught, at the ‘Croaker Hole’ in the mouth of Lake George, but not in any great quantity. Norman Clifton of Daytona Beach was over at the junction of the two rivers Friday and reported seeing large catches of the stripers being made. An unconfirmed report said that one man had caught 100 of them in three days last week.
"The stripers were first noticed last Monday when they began tearing up light bass tackle. To get into the Oklawaha, they would have had to come in from the Atlantic via the St. Johns and its string of lakes, quite a long trip inland for a salt water fish.
"The stripers at the junction of these two rivers are reported to be striking at live shiners, striking avidly. As far as I can gather, they would average around 12 pounds, but some are larger. In the Atlantic Ocean surf they average 20, but some have weighed 100 pounds, the records say.
"The striped bass is an anadromous variety, or one that ascends rivers from the sea at certain seasons, like salmon and shad. The scientific name is Roccus saxatillis, family Serranidae. It is native to the Atlantic Coast of the United States, but is also common on the Pacific Coast where it has been introduced.
"In color the striper is olivaceous above, yellowish silvery on the sides and below, but gets its name from numerous longitudinal black stripes on its sides. It is highly esteemed as a game and food fish, especially in New England."
 Another nice striped bass taken from the Ochlockonee River basin.
Stripers spawn in late winter &/or early spring. Available fisheries research documents suggest that striped bass require about 50 miles of swift-flowing stream current (of at least 0.68 mph) for their fertilized eggs & larvae to be suspended-in for approximately 48 hours to avoid suffocating in bottom mud. Rodman Dam (a.k.a. Kirkpatrick Dam), constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers solely for the defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal project, was completed across the Ocklawaha River on 30 September 1968. The striper's strict reproductive requirement would identify the pre-Rodman impounded Ocklawaha River -- which was 56 free-flowing stream miles of swift current from Silver Springs to the St. Johns -- as probably being the only striped bass successful natural spawning habitat of the entire St. Johns River basin.
Striped bass seeking the thermal refuge of Silver Glen Springs (flows into Lake George/St. Johns River) during the hot Florida summer.
The extremely low stream gradient (about 1/10th of the Ocklawaha's), with its resulting sluggish current, of the St. Johns River itself precludes the larger river from being suitable for the striper's reproductive needs. Lake Washington, near Melbourne, is 260 miles upriver from the mouth but less than 20 feet elevation above sea level--lower than Rodman Reservoir much of the time. There are not enough stream miles or stream-flow velocity & volume to allow striped bass natural reproduction in any of the other major tributaries of the St. Johns River: Econlockhatchee River (26 miles), Wekiva River (14 miles), Alexander Creek (13 miles), Juniper Creek (10 miles), Salt Springs Run (4 miles), Dunns Creek (6 miles), Black Creek (24 miles), etc.

Brody (1994):

"Endemic striped bass are having only very limited reproductive success, if any: no native striped bass young-of-the-year have been reported during several surveys, and hatchery reared juvenile stripers and sunshine bass (hybrids) maintain the fishery." 


Jordan (1994):

"It is currently speculated that the population endemic to the St. Johns River is no longer contributing to the standing stock of striped bass and its hybrids (i.e., native population extirpated and replaced by hatchery stocks; unpublished data, FGFWFC)."


Clugston (2002):

"The table of native fishes in the Ocklawaha River system provided by Continental Shelf Associates, Inc (1994) indicates that striped bass rarely were caught in the river and reservoir. However, there is little doubt that they were seasonally common in the unaltered river system. McLane (1955) reported striped bass presence in the Ocklawaha River upstream to the Moss Bluff Dam. Barkuloo (1962) described large numbers in Silver Springs during the summer. About 400 were counted by SCUBA divers from the spring to a point 4.5 miles downstream in Silver River. They were an important attraction to tourists riding glass-bottom boats at the spring. The junction of Silver River and the Ocklawaha River was a popular fishing location for striped bass at that time. More recently, Jordan (1994a) failed to collect striped bass between January and June, 1994, in the reservoir and river, but he did collect them from the barge canal downstream of the lock. However, probably every Spring to date since the completion of the dam, local newspapers have reported excellent striped bass fishing in the Ocklawaha River at the base of Rodman Dam. The presence of striped bass carcasses in the reservoir during two fish kills in the late 1980's indicate that some passed into the reservoir via the lock (Florida Department of Environmental Protection 1997). None were seen in a September 2000 fish kill (R. W. Hujik, FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, personal communication). Striped bass are no longer seen by tourists riding glass-bottom boats at Silver Springs. There is no doubt that the Rodman Dam stops upstream migration of striped bass in the Ocklawaha River."


"Although some striped bass still pass into the reservoir through the lock, numbers are greatly reduced as evident by their absence at Silver Springs and the most recent fish kill, and the large numbers stopped at the dam and caught there by fishermen every Spring. More important, the Ocklawaha River is one of the few tributaries of the St. Johns River that met spawning habitat requirements of striped bass. Construction of the reservoir reduced the length of this free-flowing river to a size no longer suitable for striped bass spawning."


Miller et al. (2012):

"Even though it continues to support valuable commercial and recreation fisheries, the fish community of the St. Johns River today is impaired compared to the community present 50 years ago. Native striped bass (Morone saxatilis) were extirpated and populations are now maintained by stocking northern and hybrid strains (M. Hale, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) pers. comm.; Holder et al. 2007)."


Gilmore (2012) article in Florida Sportsman magazine (August 2012, page 65):
"Based on historical fishing records it appears that the last holdout for striped bass spawning grounds on the Florida east coast was the Ocklawaha River. All of today's stripers caught in the St. Johns River are hatchery reared fish.


"So what happened to the Ocklawaha spawning population? Its demise was likely caused by a dam and other barriers on the lower reaches of the Ocklawaha River and a plan to cross Florida with a barge canal. The canal was squelched in the 1970s after much construction had already taken place, including the construction of the Rodman Dam and Reservoir. This changed water flows, eliminated riffle habitat that did exist, and most notably, produced a barrier to striper migration. There may have been some holdout stripers spawning after the dam construction, but today there is no evidence that stripers spawn naturally anywhere along the Florida east coast."


"Anyone who has played a striper on the line has got to admit that it is just as much fun, or more so, than a big largemouth bass. So why not bring back the striped bass spawning population to the Ocklawaha River? Why not figure out a way to get these great gamefish past the Rodman Dam?


"The local economic benefit of having the only native spawning striper fishery in Florida could be sensational."



 A 15-lb striped bass from the Ochlockonee River basin.
Since 1970, striper replacement stocks in the St. Johns Basin have been hatchery raised & stocked by man. Successful natural reproduction seems to have ceased with the advent of Rodman Dam. During the springtime, adults of these St. Johns River man-reared striped bass attempt futile spawning runs attracted by the current of the lower Ocklawaha River but are blocked by Rodman Dam from proceeding any further upstream. Without a steady current in the still-water Cross Florida Barge Canal to guide them, only very few (if any) move back & forth through Buckman Lock. In recent years striped bass appear to be absent from the Ocklawaha River upstream of Rodman Reservoir as evidenced by a lack of striper observations or catches. And at least through the end of calendar year 2014, no striped bass have ever been intentionally stocked into the Ocklawaha River system above Rodman Dam and Buckman Lock by state or federal agencies.
Replacement stocks of St. Johns River basin stripers are produced here -- only if mature
Atlantic-race striped bass are available in late winter/early spring for the USFWS to breed!
A restored thriving population of striped bass in the Ocklawaha River from Rodman Dam upstream to Silver Springs & Moss Bluff Dam would be very beneficial to the system. Stripers provide excellent sporting & table qualities to anglers PLUS striped bass are voracious consumers of gizzard & threadfin shad -- these shad are major contributors to the nutrient overload problem of the Ocklawaha River basin along with many other Florida waters.
Gizzard shad (in photo) "infest" the entire Ocklawaha River basin
& contribute greatly to the nutrient overload problem -- striped bass
voraciously feed upon them!

The stated mission of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is "Managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people." It would seem that attempting to restore a natural breeding population of Atlantic-race striped bass to their historic Ocklawaha River spawning habitat would be a worthy goal for the FWC to actively pursue. Wouldn’t the "long-term well-being" of a desirable Florida-native game-fish species with a very limited range in this state--the Atlantic-race striped bass--be better advanced by making its very existence in the St. Johns River basin not only completely dependent upon the work of fish hatcheries?

The remainder of this report presents a "suggested reading" list of available documentation containing some information that is supportive of the belief that the endemic striped bass of the St. Johns River basin historically utilized the pre-Rodman impounded Ocklawaha River as their only suitable spawning habitat. Ocklawahaman recommends that the following thirty-four reference documents should be read (at least in part) by any who are truly interested in the Striped Bass of the Ocklawaha River, Florida.
Striped bass seeking the thermal refuge of Silver Glen Springs (flows into Lake George/St. Johns River) during the hot Florida summer. 




Bacon, J. H. & W. M. Black. 1891. "Report of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army; Appendix O - Report of Captain Black (page 1623); Improvement of the Ocklawaha River, Florida; Report of Mr. J. H. Bacon, Assistant Engineer, United States Engineer Department, St. Augustine, Fla., May 11, 1891." U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.



Bain, M. B. & J. L. Bain. 1982. Habitat suitability index models: coastal stocks of striped bass. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/hsi/hsi-001.pdf


Barkuloo, J. M. 1967. Florida striped bass. Fishery Bulletin No. 4. Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission (FL GFC), Tallahassee (TAL), FL. Available as a hardcopy.
Barkuloo, J. M. 1970. Taxonomic status and reproduction of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in Florida. Technical Paper 44. USFWS. Available as a hardcopy.


Bass, D. G. & V. Guillory. 1976. Cross Florida barge canal restudy report; fisheries study (Volume 1, 2, 3). FL GFC, TAL, FL. Available as a hardcopy.


Brody, R. W. 1994. Volume 6 of the lower St. Johns River Basin reconnaissance biological resources. Technical publication SJ94-2. St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), Palatka (PAL), FL. http://www.sjrwmd.com/technicalreports/pdfs/TP/SJ94-2.pdf


Buckow, E. 1962. "Striped bass for St. Lucie" article; "The Reel Story" column. Palm Beach Post-Times newspaper (12 August 1962, page 31), Palm Beach, FL.


Clugston, J. P. 2002. Fishes of the Ocklawaha River, Florida. Florida Defenders of the Environment, Gainesville, FL. Available as a hardcopy.


Crance, J. H. 1984. Habitat suitability index models and instream flow suitability curves: inland stocks of striped bass. USFWS.


Fay, C. W.; R. J. Neves & G. B. Pardue. 1983. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (mid-Atlantic)--striped bass. USFWS. http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/species_profiles/82_11-008.pdf


Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). 2002. Basin status report: Ocklawaha (page 148). FDEP, TAL, FL.



Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). 2003. "Stripers--temperate bass; striped bass" webpage.  FWC, TAL, FL. Was previously available at: http://floridafisheries.com/fishes/stripers.html  Available as a hardcopy.
FWC. 2012. Rodman Reservoir historical perspective. FWC, TAL, FL. Available as a hardcopy.


FL GFC. 1970. "The Oklawaha River" article. Florida Wildlife magazine (November 1970, page 24-26), FL GFC, TAL, FL. Available as a hardcopy.


Gainesville Sun. 1987. "Hatchery will raise 7 million fish" article; "Putnam County" column. Gainesville Sun newspaper (12 May 1987, page B1), Gainesville, FL.



Gallant, G. 1962. "Outdoors with Gene Gallant" column. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (11 September 1962, page 5), Ocala, FL.



Gallant, G. 1965. "Fishing, boating season well underway; fishing reports vary" article; "Outdoors" column. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (30 May 1965, page 26), Ocala, FL.


Gallant, G. 1966. "Area fishing is good" article; "Outdoors" column. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (22 May 1966), Ocala, FL. Available as a hardcopy.


Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA DNR). 2010. "Life history of striped bass (Morone saxatilis)." Wildlife Resources Division, GA DNR, Atlanta, GA.


Hill, J.; J. W. Evans & M. J. Van Den Avyle. 1989. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (South Atlantic)--striped bass. USFWS. http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/species_profiles/82_11-118.pdf


Jordan, F. 1994. Environmental studies concerning four alternatives for Rodman Reservoir and the lower Ocklawaha River (Volume 1 Executive summary & Volume 14 Ocklawaha River migratory fish assessment). SJRWMD, PAL, FL. Available as a hardcopy.


Langworthy, F. 1955. "Outdoors" column. Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal newspaper (28 August 1955, page 14), Daytona Beach, FL.


McLane, W. M. 1955. The fishes of the St. Johns River system. Ph.D. dissertation (August 1955, page 226-228), University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Available as a hardcopy.



McErlean, A. J. 1961. Striped bass in Florida. Florida State Board of Conservation Marine Laboratory, St. Petersburg, FL. http://aquaticcommons.org/306/1/UF00076823.pdf


Miller, S. J.; R. E. Brockmeyer, Jr.; W. Tweedale, J. Shenker, Ph.D.; L. W. Keenan, Ph.D.; S. Connors, E. F. Lowe, Ph.D.; J. Miller, C. Jacoby, Ph.D. & L. McCloud. 2012. Chapter 12 fish. St. Johns River water supply impact study (2012). Technical report SJ2012-1. SJRWMD, PAL, FL.



Munch, D. A.; D. J. Toth, C. Huang, J. B. Davis, C. M. Fortich, W. L. Osburn, E. J. Phlips, E. L. Quinlan, M. S. Allen, M. J. Woods, P. Cooney, R. L. Knight, R. A. Clarke & S. L. Knight. 2007. Fifty-year retrospective study of the ecology of Silver Springs, Florida. Special publication SJ2007-SP4. SJRWMD, PAL, FL.



Ocala Star-Banner. 1956. "Ocklawaha catch" article. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (6 May 1956, page 23), Ocala, FL.


Ocala Star-Banner. 1968. "Fishing stays unpredictable" article. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (30 June 1968, page 3C), Ocala, FL.


Ocala Star-Banner. 1987. "Fishermen want river restored" article. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (19 March 1987, page 7A), Ocala, FL.


Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TX PWD). 2009. "Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)" webpage. TX PWD, Austin, TX.



University of Florida (UF). 2003. "Featured fish: gizzard shad & threadfin shad" article. "Florida LAKEWATCH Program Volume XXV 2003." IFAS, UF, Gainesville, FL. http://lakewatch.ifas.ufl.edu/PDFFolder2003/FLWVol25.pdf


USFWS. 2010. "Welaka National Fish Hatchery" web pages. USFWS.





Ware, F. J. 1988. "Florida striped bass" article. Florida Wildlife magazine (May-June 1988, page 16-20). FL GFC, TAL, FL. Available as a hardcopy.


Waterman, R. 1958. "Writer observes Florida's gamefish in natural habitat" article. The Evening Independent newspaper (3 August 1958, page 6), St. Petersburg, FL.



REFERENCE AS:  Nosca, P. 2015. "Striped bass of the Ocklawaha River, Florida" webpage report. "Ocklawahaman" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL. https://sites.google.com/site/ocklawahaman/striped-bass-of-the-ocklawaha-river
Paul Nosca,
Jul 15, 2012, 10:08 AM
Paul Nosca,
May 17, 2013, 7:43 AM